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Reload & Remount Ch. 18 from Trampled Grass

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A word from Curt

Reload.

It means to rebound.

The following story is a humorous look at going into a serious place,  a refugee camp.

 

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Curt Iles

 

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capt18Driving up to a refugee camp is a daunting event.

You’re greeted by thousands of people milling about.

Run out of their homes by war. They’ve arrived in a foreign country.

Been promised much but given little.

Often hungry.

Always worried.

Normally on edge.

Life is uncertain. They are understandably frustrated.

When they see a truckload of whites drive up, they get their hopes up.

Oftentimes, they also get their hackles up. They equate every white face with the UN, and if they’re angry with the UN, they lash out at you.

We’ve experienced this repeatedly in the Adjumani refugee camps.

Each time it’s worked out well, but several times we glanced back to where our truck was parked. I learned from Bob Calvert: always park your vehicle facing out. You never know when you may need to get out of Dodge fast.

After a harrowing visit, we drove to Aiylo Camp. It is a new arrival camp and has over 15,000 residents in it and its sister camp.

It was the usual jarring ride over five km of corduroy road.

As we rounded the corner and entered Aiylo Camp, a large group of waving women stormed towards our vehicles. They were singing and dancing to the accompaniment of a large drum circle.

Children were jumping up and down as we stepped out of our vehicle. I asked DeDe, “How did they know we were coming?”

Our Kentucky volunteers basked in the warm welcome. It was so nice after several of the previous camp scrapes.

Just then a police car sped into the camp followed by a nice bus. We stoodwatching as about a dozen nicely dressed dignitaries filed out of the bus. Armed policemen eyed us suspiciously.

The welcoming crowd tried to rekindle their enthusiasm but seemingly had “shot their wad” on us. They stood looking from us to the new arrivals, clearly confused. I think they realized the same thing we did: they’d welcomed the wrong visitors.

One of the visitors, a jewelry-bedecked woman, seemed to be in charge. She (nicely) informed our volunteers that this was a VIP group and it would be best if we excused ourselves pronto. They were a mixture of Members of Parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister.

We were just peons who’d crashed the party. We piled in and left unceremoniously. I stole one last look at the crowd. They were staring at us like a “calf at a new gate.” (* all idioms compliments of Bob Calvert and Kevin Willis.)

We now knew exactly what to do. We “got out of Dodge” as quickly as we could, laughing all the way to the next camp.

In fact, we’re still laughing. Our missionary friends, who know Africa so well, seem to enjoy it being recounted the most.

The Aiylo welcoming committee that welcomed the wrong visitors and couldn’t quite get reloaded and remounted* in time for the real welcome.

Our work in the refugee camps is an absurd mixture of deep sorrow, kindness, anger, relief, tears, and even laughter. When we share a humorous story (like the one above), it in no means lessens our concern and care over the suffering in the Camps.

It’s part of the coping method we’ve learned from our resilient friends in theCamps. And I’ve learned that Africans are the most resilient people in the world.

Jerry Clower told the story of a football game between Mississippi State and Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech is famous for its “Red Raider,” a masked rider who gallops down the sidelines when Tech scores a touchdown. This is done to the boom of a black powder cannon.

Texas-Tech-Football-Mascot

   The Texas Tech “Red Raider”

Clower told of Texas Tech having the ball “first and goal” inside the Miss. State ten yard line. The Tech runner back ran off tackle inside the five. The referee (from the SEC) thought it was the goal line and signaled “Touchdown.”

The cannon went off. The Red Raider galloped down the cheering sideline.

And then the ref realized his mistake. He sprinted to the Tech bench and put his arm around the coach. “Coach, I have messed up. Now, we ain’t done nothing to you. It’s still second down and goal to go. I’ll just stand here long enough to allow your people to reload and remount.”

We saw it for real at Aiylo Camp.

They just couldn’t get reloaded and remounted in time to give a rousing welcome to the real guests.

We just enjoyed our proverbial fifteen minutes of fame.

reload

                                           A Baobab tree, one of Africa’s most distinctive trees. I took photo in Zambia during training.

 

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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